Recently we read about extending the school day, researched the topic, wrote our opinions, and then had a debate. The reason why I had the students write BEFORE the debate was to prepare them to speak. I wanted to make sure everyone was familiar with both sides of the topic and able to think out their opinion with supporting evidence before speaking. This was great because the student participation was much better and I held the students accountable for their opinions in their writing. If students had a hard time participating, I slipped them their write up to remind them of what they wanted to say.
When I first discussed this topic with my classroom I was certain the whole class would NOT want to extend the school day. I found it amazing that the class was split right down the center with students not in favor and in favor of a longer school day! The students really took an interest in their research and opinion because it is a real life matter that effects them. Especially after hearing that other districts in Connecticut (not ours) are going to pilot the program of a lengthened day and possible year.
We then put our opinion writing in the hallway, on the bulletin board!
Our class is lucky enough to receive Time For Kids. They have great nonfiction articles and usually feature a story for students to form an opinion on. If you would like to try this activity, I would suggest looking online for student friendly articles. Be sure the article addresses both side of the argument. Our new unit is about opinion writing and turning it into a speech. We are going to do this activity with an article titled, "Should students have to wear uniforms to school?" I am eager to hear what my student's thoughts are on this topic.